There is an old truth known by military men that no military plan survives contact with the enemy. This was never more obvious than what happened at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, when the invasion at Omaha Beach began. Allied bombardments and a massive air campaign that went awry had failed to eliminate or effectively slow down the Nazi machine-gun and mortar crews.
In the first wave of the invasion, 19 men from the small town of Bedford Virginia were part of Company A of the 29th Infantry Division had trained together, ate together, slept together, and now were landing together in the face of a hostile enemy that had been preparing for them for years.
The interlocking fields of machine gun fire were carefully laid out for just such an invasion. The bombing and ships cannons failed to prepare the beaches in a way that would help the lightly armored troops that were rushing through the surf towards their doom.
In the first wave, all 19 men died, some without ever firing a shot. The nightmare that Eisenhower had about being stopped on the beaches had a painful reality that first hour as many men became trapped on the beach. So many deaths on that first morning were gruesome and painful in their passage. The Nazi gunners were relentless and it was only the actions of brave men that finally breached the defenses to start the long march to Berlin. Their story is recorded in a book called “The Bedford Boys” by Alex Kershaw.
Besides the first nineteen, two others died before the month was out, and two more were killed before the war ended a year later. No other community in America suffered a heavier proportionate share of loss than Bedford (its population was 3,200), so it was appropriate that the town was selected to be home of the National D-Day Memorial.
The site is a privately run 501 C3 organization and rests in a quite place in the hills of Western Virginia. If you have never been there, you need to go. The displays on this page do not do the place justice.
In a cemetery in Normandy France, a place of honor is reserved for men like the Bedford Boys.
You have no soul if you are not moved by seeing row upon row of crosses and Star of Davids.
An incredible resource was brought to my attention by John Montgomery: http://www.witnesstowar.org/
The recorded stories there remind us about what true American Heroes are all about